Central Bank Governor Lamido Sanusi has said that Nigeria policy makers are ready to keep raising interest rates if inflation fails to remain below 10 per cent.

Sanusi is “not celebrating yet” after inflation eased to 9.4 per cent in July, the slowest pace in more than three years. The bank is still concerned about “stubbornly high” core inflation, he said in an interview in Hong Kong, yesterday.

“I would like to wait and see if the drop is sustainable or a blip,” Sanusi said, adding that “We’ll wait to see if it’s a trend. If it isn’t a trend, we may have to continue tightening.” Turkey, Brazil and some other central banks have cut lending rates in the past month, concerned about Europe’s debt crisis and slowing global growth.

Sanusi’s comments underscored how Nigerian policy-makers are committed to keeping a lid on inflation, which has averaged about 11 per cent since the start of 2007.

“We certainly are determined to show inflation does not get out of control,” Sanusi  said.
Nigeria’s benchmark rate has been increased four times this year to 8.75 per cent to rein in inflation and support the naira.

Inflation data for August, which is due to be published next week, may be little changed from July, remaining slightly below 10 percent, Sanusi said.

The central bank is scheduled to make its next interest rate decision on Sept. 20.

Sanusi said the bank will probably continue to maintain its currency peg even as oil prices slide. Nigeria has been drawing down foreign-currency reserves to keep the naira within a band of 3 percentage points above or below 150 per dollar.

The Abuja- based central bank has failed to meet dollar demand at 17 consecutive currency auctions, held biweekly.

“We’ve seen a lot of demand pressure, but we think that’s temporary,” said Sanusi.

“So long as we’re in the band, frankly we don’t worry. We don’t have to meet each and every demand at the official window. There is an interbank market and there are generous funds.”

The naira fell to N153.15 per dollar at an auction yesterday, the weakest level since a June 22 sale, after the central bank sold $400 million, less than the $438 million demanded by lenders, the bank said in an e-mailed statement.

In interbank trading the naira fell for a third day, declining 0.3 percent to 156.15 per dollar as of 3:30 p.m. in Lagos.

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